Gov.Gen. Julie Payette gives a wave as she waits before delivering the throne speech in the Senate chamber in Ottawa on Wednesday, Sept. 23, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld

Liberals vow wage-subsidy extension to 2021, revamp of EI system in throne speech

Canadian labour market was hammered by pandemic, when lockdowns in the spring led to a loss of 3 million jobs

The Liberals are reversing course on a decision to wind down a federal wage subsidy, vowing in their throne speech to extend the program for businesses harmed by COVID-19 into next year.

Over the summer the government decided to start scaling back the program through the rest of the year by providing a smaller subsidy with each passing month.

The criteria for using the program were also eased.

But the Liberals were warned that small businesses that have used the program would need the help into 2021 as their revenues stayed low while costs remained steady.

Today, the Liberals’ throne speech promised to extend the subsidies to summer 2021, acknowledging the economic situation facing many employers is still fraught.

And for workers who lose their jobs, the throne speech also promises to put everyone under the employment insurance system, making it the only vehicle for benefits for hard-hit workers even if they previously didn’t qualify for the decades-old program.

The Canadian labour market has been hammered by the pandemic, when lockdowns in March and April led to a loss of three million jobs and 2.5 million more workers having their hours slashed as non-essential businesses were ordered closed.

As of August, the country has recouped about two-thirds of those job losses but that recovery has been uneven: Women, youth, low-wage and visible minority workers haven’t rebounded as quickly.

Statistics Canada reported that about one-fifth of the labour force was considered underutilized in August, a combination of people who were unemployed, who were not looking for jobs but wanted to work, and who worked less than half their usual hours – usually due to the pandemic.

The throne speech vows to use federal spending to get back the last million or so jobs, including through direct investments in the social sector and incentives for employers to hire and retain workers. The extension of the wage subsidy is touted as another way to create jobs.

As of Sept. 13, the government had paid out just over $35.3 billion in benefits to 312,750 different companies, although the number of workers covered by the subsidies has fallen in recent weeks.

At the same time, the Liberals plan to wind down the Canada Emergency Response Benefit, which has paid out almost $78 billion in benefits to nearly 8.8 million people.

Anyone covered by employment insurance will move to that program with access eased, they say. Those who don’t qualify, such as self-employed and gig workers, will be pushed to a new 26-week “recovery” benefit.

But the throne speech says that new benefit, which Parliament still has to approve, will be a transitional program before moving every worker in the country onto EI.

There is also a pledge in the throne speech to update the government’s technology systems. That will be a must for EI because the core system that delivers payments is more than 40 years old.

Jordan Press, The Canadian Press

LiberalsThrone Speech

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Alberta has 3,651 active cases of COVID-19. (File photo)
432 new COVID cases sets another record Friday

Central zone holds steady at 126 active cases

"We are looking seriously at the spread and determining what our next steps should be," says Alberta’s chief medical officer of health, Dr. Deena Hinshaw, as the daily number of COVID-19 cases continues to climb.
427 new COVID cases is highest in Alberta ever

Central zone has 126 active cases of COVID-19

RCMP. (Black Press File Photo)
Calgary man dies in two-vehicle collision near Sylvan Lake

A semi truck collided with a SUV just east of Hwy. 781 on Hwy 11.

Shaelynn Decock and her dog Taco, who has been missing since Aug. 26. Photo Submitted
Sylvan Lake woman looking for closure for her stolen dog

Shaelynn Decock says it has been two months since she last saw her dog Taco

Alberta chief medical officer of health Dr. Deena Hinshaw updates media on the Covid-19 situation in Edmonton on Friday March 20, 2020. nbsp;Alberta is reporting it's highest daily number of COVID-19 cases, with 364 new infections. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jason Franson
Alberta confirmed 323 COVID-19 cases Tuesday

Central zone active cases at 145

B.C. Liberal leader Andrew Wilkinson, B.C. NDP leader John Horgan and B.C. Greens leader Sonia Furstenau. (Black Press Media)
VIDEO: One day until B.C. voters go to the polls in snap election defined by pandemic

NDP Leader John Horgan’s decision to call an election comes more than a year ahead of schedule and during a pandemic

Ryen Williams, 11, with a lost miniature horse at JJ Collett Oct. 23. Photo by Don Williams
UPDATE: Owners found

Father and son found him while out for a walk at JJ Collett

A Le Chateau retail store is shown in Montreal on Wednesday July 13, 2016. Le Chateau Inc. says it is seeking court protection from creditors under the Companies’ Creditors Arrangement Act to allow it to liquidate its assets and wind down its operations.THE CANADIAN PRESS/Ryan Remiorz
Clothing retailer Le Chateau plans to close its doors, files for CCAA protection

Le Chateau said it intends to remain fully operational as it liquidates its 123 stores

U.S. border officers at the Peace Arch crossing arrested two men on California warrants this week. (File photo)
Ottawa predicts system delays, backlogs unless court extends life of refugee pact

Canada and the United States recognize each other as safe places to seek protection

Conservative member of Parliament Michelle Rempel Garner, left to right, Conservative Leader Erin O’Toole and Conservative Deputy Leader Candice Bergen arrive to hold a press conference in Ottawa on Thursday, Oct. 22, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Sean Kilpatrick
No-confidence showdown over sweeping Tory motion on government handling of pandemic

The Conservative motion is to be put to a vote Monday and has the support of both the Bloc Québécois and NDP

From l-r., first lady Melania Trump, President Donald Trump, moderator Kristen Welker of NBC News, Democratic presidential candidate former Vice President Joe Biden and his wife Jill Biden on stage at the conclusion of the second and final presidential debate Thursday, Oct. 22, 2020, at Belmont University in Nashville, Tenn. (AP Photo/Patrick Semansky)
Trump, Biden fight over the raging virus, climate and race

Republican president declared the virus, which killed more than 1,000 Americans on Thursday alone, will “go away.”

JJ Collett Natural Area Foundation held its AGM on Oct. 19 at the Ponoka Legion. (Emily Jaycox/Ponoka News)
De-listing Alberta parks creates ‘risk’ for coal mining: CPAWS

Canadian Parks and Wilderness Society speaks at JJ Collett AGM

COVID-19. (Image courtesy CDC)
Temporary COVID-19 testing sites coming to Wetaskiwin and Ponoka

The Wetaskiwin location will open Oct. 23, 2020 and the Ponoka location will open Oct. 29.

ACC President and CEO Ken Kobly spoke to Ponoka Chamber of Commerce members over Zoom on Oct. 20. (Image: screenshot)
Alberta chambers are ‘411’ to members, government: ACC president

Changes to government supports, second wave and snap election

Most Read